Texas Rangers

How meat on his bones, mustard on his fastball made Vanasco a top 10 Rangers prospect

A big word in the scouting world is “projectable,” but there’s no one quality that makes a player projectable.

Many times it refers to a player’s size. For instance, a tall, lanky pitcher might be projectable because he has a chance to add healthy weight that helps his velocity tick up.

An athletic player can be considered projectable because he can quickly adapt to changes in mechanics to overcome flaws.

The Texas Rangers took a projectable right-hander in the 15th round of the 2017 draft.

He’s now the No. 7 prospect in the Star-Telegram’s top 10 ranking of Rangers prospects.

No. 7: Ricky Vanasco, RHP

Age: 21 (Oct. 13, 1998)

Bats/throws: Right/right

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 185 pounds

How acquired: 15th round, 2017 draft

Ricky Vanasco is one of those people who can eat and eat and eat and eat some more but never gain weight.

We should all be so lucky.

For a developing professional baseball pitcher, Vanasco’s inability to put on pounds can be a hindrance.

But at some point over the past year or so the motor driving his metabolism stopped revving so much and the scale started showing bigger numbers.

So did the radar gun.

There’s no separating the two in the mind of Vanasco, who throughout his prep years in Florida and his first few seasons of pro ball with the Rangers checked in under 170 pounds.

“My first year I was 165 pounds soaking wet. Soaking wet,” Vanasco said earlier this month while participating in the inaugural Futures Camp at Globe Life Park. “I just try to crush as much food as I can.

“Everything in our cafe, I was constantly eating. After our dinner that night in the clubhouse, I would have something after that. It was almost like physically making me sick.”

The result, though, was a significant jump in velocity. His fastball went from the low-90s at the end of last season to the mid- to upper-90s in extended spring training.

The Rangers considered moving Vanasco to Low A Hickory but opted to make him the Opening Day starter for Short Season A Spokane.

He dazzled with the Indians, going 3-1 in nine starts with a 1.69 ERA. He registered 59 strikeouts in 39 innings, and opponents hit only .173 against him. It was good enough to earn a late-season promotion to Hickory, where he pitched 10 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed only five hits while striking out 16.

Vanasco finally yielded runs in his first postseason start, two of them in six innings. He followed that with 3 2/3 scoreless in the South Atlantic League championship series, which Hickory lost in four games.

“He was a spark of electricity when he came to us,” Hickory manager Matt Hagen said. “He comes out and lets it eat. He’s got some good life to how he carries himself, he’s exciting to watch, and he definitely put himself on the map.”

While Vanasco doesn’t appear in the Baseball America ranking of the top 30 Rangers prospects and is only 24th in the MLB Pipeline list, Rangers scouts and executives love him.

The fastball stands out, but Vanasco throws a curveball that has a chance to be a plus-pitch and also mixes in a slider and changeup.

A return to Hickory is likely, but Rangers assistant general manager Mike Daly said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Vanasco finish 2020 at Double A Frisco.

Vanasco is tuned in to what is being said and written about him, as well as the success he had this season. The talk is flattering, and it also will serve as motivation as he works out this off-season.

He’s still eating and growing, too.

“I was good to see. I worked hard for it,” he said. “I try to stay as humble as I can. I love the good things written. It fires me up even more. I’m just going to keep pushing through and try to get better each day.”

Top 10 Rangers prospects

No. 10: Sherten Apostel, 3B

No. 9: Nick Solak, 2B

No. 8: Joe Palumbo, LHP

No. 7: Ricky Vanasco, RHP

No. 6: Tuesday

No. 5: Wednesday

No. 4: Thursday

No. 3: Friday

No. 2: Monday

No. 1: Oct. 22

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After 12 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.
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